etc 

First I want you to clear your mind of hostility, cynicism and skepticism. Go to that happy place where politicians are honest, lawyers are genuine and beer is plentiful. Are you there yet? Ok, here goes…

Missoula’s Southgate Mall has won the Missoula-based Save America’s Visual Environment’s first annual Beautification Award for outstanding achievement in the use of attractive and functional [drum roll here]… landscaping.

Now, hold on. Try and stay in your happy place. I know you want to scream, “What? That blight on the town! That sprawling mess that draws solo drivers from Lolo just to pick up some of those award-winning garlicky string beans from the Mustard Seed!” But don’t.

Remember that people will shop, and if they’re going to shop in a mall, it may as well be a mall surrounded by shady evergreen and birch trees. Also know that it’s your cynicism that makes Southgate Marketing Director Kimberly Roth so happy to win the award.

“That’s exactly why we need it, because people think of shopping malls as ugly,” she says. “But it’s very unusual for a shopping center to have this variety of landscaping.”

The mall began as twinkle of commerce and beauty in George Lambros’ eye in the mid-’70s. Even back then, Lambros knew that Missoulians wouldn’t stand for your typical North Jersey strip mall, says Roth.

“[Lambros] truly cares about the mall,” she says. “And that’s important because Missoula is so environmentally conscious.”

So be honest with yourself. Next time you need a copy of “Grand Theft Auto,” $2 flip flops or a lacy, silk thong from Victoria’s Secret and would rather navigate Malfunction Junction than Reserve Street, take a moment to sniff the trees and summer flowers. Yes, it’s a mall. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to dress up a mall. But be prepared to admit that it’s not the hot, bare asphalt parking lot typically featured by most of Missoula’s shopping centers. And think about giving thanks. For the beauty. Of the mall.

•••

Who knew that the eve of the Western Governors’ Association Conference would turn out to be the eve of destruction? Well OK, not total destruction, but someone, or several someones, did take a baseball bat to the windows of the Missoula headquarters of the Sierra Club and Cold Mountains, Cold Rivers (CMCR).

When CMCR board member Dan Brister showed up for work on Tuesday morning, he discovered three broken panes of smashed glass on the floor and a scratched-up front door. The night before, the Sierra Club had hosted a standing-room-only talk on how to protect homes from wildfire at the Holiday Inn Parkside. Sierra Club community organizer Bob Clark believes the vandalism was linked to the conference, their talk and recent press coverage of the two organizations.

“This was no random act,” he says. “This was a targeted, timely act of violence, and it shows the extent to which some people will go.”

Clark says the vandalism is the picture of irony. Gov. Judy Martz has equated environmentalists with terrorists, yet groups like the Sierra Club are non-violent and only work within the law, he says.

“Groups like us are marginalized as extremist,” says Clark. “But this likely came from the right wing.”

As of now, there is no evidence to indicate who the culprits may be. The police are investigating the break-in, but have no leads.

Right around the corner from the Sierra Club and CMCR offices on the 800 block of Sherwood, the offices of the Ecology Center and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies were unmolested.

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